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Leveraging The EDGE Method

Techniques for training in the wilderness can also work in your shop.

I just spent 2 weeks in the backcountry of New Mexico. No electricity, no cell service, and no potable water with plenty of bears and rattlesnakes. Heaven! We weren’t just set loose. Before we could strike off on our own, Philmont Scout Ranch embedded one of its rangers, a United States Air Force Academy cadet named Max, with us for three days.

Philmont Camp_Boy Scouts of America
Participants climb at Cimarroncito at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, N.M. Photo courtesy of Boy Scouts of America, Philmont.

Max greeted our crew at base camp and began taking us through a dizzying scavenger hunt that included stops at the medical center, logistics, outfitting, and security. Once we’d been sufficiently overwhelmed, Max dropped us off at our tents with an exhortation to be ready bright and early in the morning with full backpacks.

We arose the next day eagerly anticipating the days ahead after being dropped off at the trailhead. Max was with us again, quietly nudging our boys into line. “Who has strong map and compass skills?” he asked. “I do!” squawked a few of the lads. “Great,” Max said. “Let’s get the map oriented and make sure to take into account the declination for this part of the country.” What followed resembled hamsters jumbling around inside a sack as the boys devolved into head scratching, fumbling, and wild speculation. Finally, Max asked the Scouts to show him where we were on the map. Five possible spots were suggested. Max looked at our group and softly started over, showing them how to orient the map, factor in magnetic declination, and take bearings of nearby landmarks to obtain our location. The boys silently watched and nodded. Max then asked, “Who wants to be our navigator today?” The boys played “not it” for a few minutes before my son, Will, reluctantly volunteered to take the post.

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We proceeded to get lost. Then we achieved the status of “even more lost.” Eventually we found our campsite where Max sprang into action, showing the boys how to do things the “Philmont Way,” which included where to camp, where to cook, and how to properly dispose of waste. Each step of the way, Max patiently explained and demonstrated each step. Scouting has a teaching method called “EDGE” that I could see him following. Here’s how the acronym breaks down:

  • Explain: This step involves gathering the group together while the leader gives an overview of what’s about to happen and asks if there are questions.
  • Demonstrate: The group leader shows what’s expected and covers any pitfalls they’re likely to encounter.
  • Guide: The group participants now attempt the new skill with hands-on supervision from the leader.
  • Enable: The group leader steps back and offers occasional feedback where appropriate, but for the most part stays out of the way.

Max was an EDGE guru. Day 1 was all about Explanation and Demonstration and by Day 2 he was Guiding the boys. Day 3 came, and, with a heavy heart, we prepared to bid farewell to Max. By this point he was Enabling the group so everyone felt confident that we’d be able to tackle the next campsite without training wheels.

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Max and his EDGE skills made me think about the CI industry. How many of us are practicing EDGE vs. throwing our people into the deep end of the pool before they’re properly trained? Scouts BSA has a method that’s tried and true. All we need to do is follow it.

How will you implement EDGE in your company?

Stay frosty, and see you in the field.